Obituary of Carol O'Brien
Carol O’Brien passed away at her home on Thursday morning, May 18, at age 85 after a long and difficult illness that she faced with shining dignity and grace. She was preceded in death by her husband of 56 years, John Howard O’Brien. Her love and dedication to her family were always the primary focus of her life.
Born in San Jose, to parents Bartholomew James Sullivan and Kathryn Hilda Brown Sullivan, the family moved back to Hollister in 1934 due to the Great Depression. Carol attended local Hollister schools. After a brief period at Dominican College in San Rafael, Carol and John were married, and lived in Santa Clara, Fort Ord, and Sacramento. They returned to Hollister in 1958, when John ran for and was elected San Benito County District Attorney.
While her children were in school, Carol went back to college to earn her Bachelor of the Arts degree in English literature, by taking classes first at Gavilan College in 1970, and later transferring to UC Santa Cruz from which she graduated in 1974. It was while she was at UCSC that she met her lifelong friend, fellow English literature student and Thomas Hardy scholar, Margaret Faurot of Watsonville. Carol’s love of English literature led to her decades-long attendance of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland with daughters Terry and Darcy.
Carol was a voracious reader and book lover throughout her life, amassing a large personal library that she had just recently downsized. She started volunteering at the San Benito County Library in the 1980s and was soon hired as a part-time cataloger of new books. Writing, whether letters, journals, or poetry was another constant in her life. Some of her poems were published, but the majority were for herself, family, and friends.
Always athletic as an adult, over the years Carol excelled at golf, tennis, running/jogging, and downhill skiing. She won numerous trophies, ribbons, and pins in all of them. In 1986 she was a women’s finalist in her age group for the NASTAR (National Standard Race) Ski Racing National Championships held at Keystone, Colorado. She also enjoyed walking tours with friends Dawn Anderson and Liz Christensen in the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy.
Her clean, uncluttered aesthetic and sense of style and color were clearly evident in her home and her stylish wardrobe. Carol was a progressive to moderate democrat, and passionately followed national politics. She was a strong, fiercely independent and intensely private person to the end.
Carol is survived by her four children: daughter Terry Lewis and son-in-law Randy Lewis of King City; son Shawn O’Brien and daughter-in-law Joan O’Brien of Chico; son Bart O’Brien of Pt. Richmond; and daughter Darcy Siegel and son-in law Paul Siegel of La Jolla; seven grandchildren: Hallie Lewis Hunt, Caitlin Lewis Soto, Siobhan O’Brien, Katherine O’Brien, Liam O’Brien, Oren Siegel, and Micah Siegel; and two great-grandchildren: Sara Soto and John Hunt.
She is also survived by her sister Virginia Bradt of Hollister; and her brother Tim Sullivan and sister-in-law Marty Sullivan of El Cajon; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Private inurnment at Calvary Cemetery will be followed by a small gathering at her home. At her request, there will be no public services. In lieu of flowers, the family would prefer donations to Community Food Bank of San Benito County or the charity of your choice, care of Grunnagle, Ament, Nelson Family Funeral Home & Crematory, 870 San Benito Street, Hollister, California, 95023.